Sunday, September 28, 2008

Meal Planner Monday: Lima Bean Chowder

As we head into fall (I hear we are headed for cooler weather this week), I get in the mood to make a big pot of soup for supper. So this week I have a recipe for a very healthy & low-fat soup (it has lots of veggies, protein and fiber). This is a good one for this time of year, also, if you have cabbage that you are looking to use. The recipe makes quite a lot (I usually make 1/2 but add the regular amount of water to make it more like soup instead of chowder) so you could freeze some for later (to heat it up on a really cold winter night) if you wanted to.
But, this is the original recipe...
Combine the following into a large pot:
2 lbs ground beef or ground turkey, browned
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups celery
2 cups potatoes, cubed
1 cup shredded cabbage
2 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1/3 tsp pepper
8 cups water
Cover & cook until the vegetables are tender.
3 cups lima beans (frozen)
Simmer a little while longer
until the lima beans are cooked.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Home Canning Warning

There are many benefits to home canning...
  • it saves money
  • it is healthier (you have control over how the produce is grown and processed),
  • it supports the local economy if you are buying produce from local farmers,
  • it does not need to be transported across miles to get from the farm to your table, thus reducing consumption of fuel,
  • it is better on the environment by reducing waste because jars are recycled from year-to-year, and
  • it gives a sense of accomplishment of a final product (after all the hard work put into growing the produce if you have a garden) that benefits your family...the jars always look so pretty lined up on the shelf!
However, it is important to understand how to do it correctly and safely. I am just beginning to learn...I know I have a lot more to learn and practice, but, because I work in public health, I am aware of the serious risk of botulism when home canning is not done correctly. (By the way, there is a risk of botulism if you are flavoring oils with garlic and herbs and it is not stored correctly, or improperly storing vacuum sealed bags as well.)

In fact there was a whole family poisoned by botulism toxin recently from produce that was not canned properly...this was not in Ashland County, by the way, but word spreads and CDC must be notified to fly in the antitoxin, so it is a big deal from the public health point of view (you don't know how many people could be involved initially and it is important to investigate the source and be sure no one else is at risk - this is also why it is against food establishment codes to sell home-canned vegetables at restaurants).

Botulism is rare (only about 145 cases are reported in the US each year) and foodborne botulism only accounts for about 15% of those cases. Clostridium botulinum is the name of a group of bacteria commonly found in soil. These rod-shaped organisms grow best in low oxygen conditions. The bacteria form spores which allow them to survive in a dormant state until exposed to conditions that can support their growth. When produce, especially low-acidic foods such as green beans, corn, asparagus, potatoes, and beets are preserved in jars, conditions could become right for the spores to grow and multiply. The spores become activated in a low acid, anaerobic (low oxygen) environment with temperatures ranging from 40°F to 120°F, having high moisture content, and lacking competing bacterial flora. This is why it is so important to carefully follow the safe procedure for processing all canned foods. (So, please don't try any "new" recipes that sound like a "short cut.") These are some suggestions from the experts on food safety of how to prevent foodborne botulism:
  • If consuming home canned foods, heat low acid foods to 176°F or boiling for 10 minutes and corn, spinach and meats for 20 minutes before consumption to reduce the risk of illness
  • Oils infused with garlic or herbs should be properly refrigerated (45°F) to prevent the growth of C. botulinum spores.
  • Canned food products, both home and commercial, should be inspected before use. Cans with bulging or damaged lids, leakage, or off odors should not be used because growth of the bacteria can often produce a gas, causing the can to expand. Throw out any damaged or expired cans.
  • Home canned foods should be canned in pressure cookers to ensure the proper time, temperature and pressure requirements to avoid the growth of the bacteria and spores.
  • If canning meats, use nitrites or salt in the brine in addition to heat to reduce the growth of C. botulinum.
  • Vacuum packaged meats should be refrigerated or properly stored in the freezer for extended use.
  • Keep hot foods above 140°F and cold foods below 40°F to prevent the formation of spores (be wary of cooking baked potatoes in aluminum foil and then not consuming them immediately).

Note: Home canning has been done by many people over many years. It is safe when done correctly (I am not trying to discourage anyone from learning or doing home canning - see those benefits I listed above), but it is also important to understand how and why it must be done correctly, especially for anyone who may be trying to learn how to do home canning on their own. (If I was not in public health, I probably would not have realized how serious of a risk botulism is because we don't ever hear about it.)

There is more information on Botulism including a USDA Home Canning Guide here and here

Fair Week, Salsa, and Applesauce

The Ashland County Fair was last week. I was out there on Wednesday evening sitting at the booth for the health department. Then Mike had a magic show on Thursday evening. My mom and dad stopped on their way to Cincinnatti and spent the evening at the fair with us. Mike's show was pretty funny - the kids were hilarious. And, we enjoyed (well, at least mom and I did, and I think dad for some parts) walking around looking at the animals, quilts, crafts, 4-H projects, displays, vegetables, canned goods, antiques, etc. (sorry, the camara batteries died so I have no other pictures)
Then last Saturday I made salsa. I am just learning all this. It was the first time I have ever made salsa. The only other canning/preserving I've done before is jam/jelly. Mom brought me some extra tomatoes and hot peppers she had from the garden (thanks, mom!), so I only needed to buy some onions, bell peppers and tomato paste, which cost me only about $5 (plus the other ingredients I had on hand and the jars which will be reused)...
...and I now have 12 pints of homemade salsa!
Then, on Tuesday evening, some ladies from the church and I made applesauce. We were there until almost 11:00! But, it was worth it...I now have a bin full of applesauce in the freezer (about 16 quart-size bags which was approximately 1/2 bushel of apples)...yumm!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fireproof is in theaters starting today

You may have already is the opening of the new movie "Fireproof" from the makers of "Facing the Giants" and "Flywheel." As I hear more and more about this movie, I am more and more excited to see it. I found out today that it will be showing in Mansfield - yay! I would encourage you to check out the website (click here), if you haven't heard about the movie yet or to see if it is playing near you. Also, there have been a good number of interviews leading up to this release, but I'd encourage you to listen to this one with Kirk Cameron at Chris Fabry Live ...and while you are on that website you may want to listen to a couple other programs from earlier in the week I found quite interesting:
  • Sept 23 A discussion on the economy from a Christian viewpoint including a discussion of the federal government bailout deal
  • Sept 24 "The Man Whisperer": Speaking your husband's language to bring out his best

Frugal Friday

This will be a short post as this week has been very busy and we are headed to a picnic this evening. I hope to get a few more posts done this weekend... The best deals of the week (it's slim this week)... Rite Aid - Nature's Bounty Vitamins and Supplements BOGO - $1 printable coupon here or - $2 coupon when you sign up for a Health Rewards Club here = Price varies depending on product but it will be less than 1/2 price Suave (shampoos, conditioners, hairspray) $1.99 - $1 Rite Aid rebate = .99 Hawkins - Whole (frozen) turkey breast $1.69/lb Kroger - Tyson fresh boneless chicken breasts $1.99/lb Seedless grapes $.99/lb Buehlers - Medium eggs, 1 doz $.88 Also, it looks like there's some deals at Walgreens. I don't get an ad and there are no stores close by, but if you have one nearby you may want to check here A lot of the coupons that others are talking about on the internet to make some deals have not been in our local papers, so I don't have anything else this week... I hope to have time to add a topic/tip to next week's Frugal Friday post (especially if the deals and coupons aren't too exciting again)...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Frugal Friday: Saving on Meat

These are the best deals of the week that I see... RiteAid - 8 pk GE lightbulbs $2.99-$2 in ad coupon = $.99 CVS - Excedrin $3.99 - $3.99 ECB back = Free (I had a coupon from my register receipt so I made $1 profit) Nature's Bounty vitamins and supplements BOGO Aleve Sinus $3.99 - $3 = $.99 Buehler's - Our Family Canned Vegetables 3/$1 Green Peak frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts 3 lb bag = $4.99 Hawkins - Fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts $2.69/lb * 93% lean ground beef $2.68/lb * *This is not the best price for meat but it is better than I've seen for awhile and significantly cheaper than Walmart Here are some ways to stretch your dollars when buying meat (without buying processed or unhealthy "cheap" meats)...
  1. Consider purchasing a half or quarter of beef or pork if you have the space to freeze it.
  2. Whole boneless pork loin. These are occasionally on sale at the local grocery stores for $1.77-1.98 per lb. It seems like a lot of $ when you buy 7-9 lbs at once but you can get a lot of meals out of one pork loin. Cut it up yourself or ask the meat department to cut it up for you at no extra cost then stock up your freezer.
  3. Flat iron steak. This is my latest discovery. I had never heard of flat iron steak until just a few months ago. Buehler's (local grocer) seems to have these on sale occasionally for $3.49 per lb. You can marinate a pound of this and stretch it into 4 servings or more by making stir fry (my favorite is Beef and Broccoli) or grill it (steak kabobs). Not a bad price when you are in the mood for steak.
  4. Ground turkey. Aldi has 1 lb frozen "tubes" of ground turkey for $.99. Even if you are not a fan of ground turkey, I have found that when you blend it in with ground beef in a meatloaf or other dish, such as the stuffed peppers, you don't even notice. I often take 1 lb of the ground turkey (85% lean) and mix it with 1 lb of ground beef (96% lean). It ends up 90% lean and less expensive than buying 90% lean ground beef at regular price. (figuring the 96% lean ground beef at Walmart is regular priced at $4.28 that makes your 90% lean meat mix $2.64 per lb. - even less if you can get it on sale) You can play around with these numbers until you get the balance of lean-ness and cost to your liking. I tried the 99% lean ground turkey at Walmart once and noticed that it does not blend in as well.
  5. Whole chicken or turkey. Watch for the turkeys to go on sale around the holidays and freeze them for later. Cook the carcass for broth.
  6. Boneless chicken thighs. I like to use these in homemade chicken noodle soup. They are conveniently boneless yet you still end up with an inexpensive meal.
  7. Make soup or stew. This is another way to stretch the amount of meat needed for a meal.
  8. Go vegetarian at least once a week. There are lots of recipes for very delicious gourmet type (or plain) meatless meals on the internet using beans and other less expensive forms of protein. And, this is healthier also.
  9. Use canned fish, like tuna (in water not oil) or salmon, occasionally.
  10. Watch the weights on the package of meat when you are picking it out of the meat case. Actively look for the right size package that fits your needs. If you plan to make a meal using 1 lb. of meat, go with the one marked 1.01 or even 0.97 lbs. not the one that is marked 1.26 lbs. unless you plan to make use of the extra.
  11. Serve breakfast at dinner time once in awhile. Try something like...
  • Scrambled Eggs, Toast or Bran muffins, Fruit, Yogurt,
  • Oatmeal or whole-wheat pancakes (Did you ever try sweet potato pancakes?), Applesauce, Lean Ham
  • Omelet loaded with veggies/cheese, Fruit or Juice, Lean bacon
  • Whole-grain waffles with Fruit Topping (more like a "dessert" if you are not looking for a big dinner)

These are all pretty easy and inexpensive to make for dinner (even when you are making them from scratch) and can be quite healthy when you are creative and can provide a balanced meal with protein, fruit and vegetable.

Finally, remember that 1 serving of meat is 4 ounces (1/4 lb)...approximately the size of a deck of cards. Try to prepare dinners with this in mind. For example, cut chicken breasts in 1/2 when they are bigger than 1 serving. If you are cooking for big eaters, keep the meat in single size portions but add another side dish, such as a fruit or vegetable (this helps "balance" the meal as well, adding more nutrients and less fat).

Do you have other "tricks" to stretching and saving on meat?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Meal Planner Monday: Stuffed Peppers

It's the time of year when bell peppers are in season, so "Stuffed Bell Peppers" makes a great, healthy, inexpensive meal (you can find green peppers at the farmer's markets for 4/$1 if you don't have your own)... I make mine in the crockpot using this recipe... 4-6 bell peppers, yellow, red or green, depending on preference (cleaned) 1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey (I use lean beef or 1/2 of each...see more about this on this week's Frugal Friday post) 1 cup of white rice (or less) 1/4 cup oatmeal 1 egg Salt Pepper Spoon mixture into the green peppers and set in the crockpot. Pour 1 can tomato soup (with the water added) over top. (Tomato sauce would be good too.) Cook on low all day.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Frugal Friday: Deal of the Week

Oops, Sorry I am a little late getting this posted...
Hawkin's (a local grocer) has Cheerios on sale for 2/$4. There is also a coupon in their ad for $5 off when you buy $10 of participating General Mills products. Combine that with (5) Cheerios $1 off coupons from the Cheerios Challenge and you can get 5 boxes of Cheerios for free!!!
Also, there are a few really good deals at Target (go to the link to MoneySavingMom) and Kroger (link to MoneySavingMom) and Walgreen's (link to MoneySavingMom). If you are interested in any of these, you'll want to check to see which days the ad runs. Unfortunately, none of these stores are in Ashland, and although there are a couple things there I would love to take advantage of, it's just not worth a trip to wouldn't be a deal anymore...oh, well, maybe next time (I kept asking Mike if there was a reason for us to go to Mansfield today)...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What do you see?

Head over Mike's blog, if you haven't already, for a video that will potentially change your perspective on how you view other people who cross your path...
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
What is written in the Law?" he replied,
"How do you read it?" He answered:
"'Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind';
and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
"You have answered correctly, " Jesus replied.
"Do this and you will live."....
Jesus then told the parable of the Good Samaritan and asked...
...."Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robber?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
Luke 10:25-28, 36-37

"Pintos" by Bev Doolittle

I admit it is so easy for me to go about my daily business and look at what appears to be the obvious around me, and even make my own judgements from what I see. This video was a good reminder to keep my eyes fixed on Christ and to "put on the glasses" that will help me see the world through His eyes.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Our Special Labor Day Weekend Visitors!

We were sooo excited when my sister, Julie, called to tell us that her and Keith and the kids were coming to OH (about an 8 hour drive) over Labor Day weekend and that they would stop in Ashland and spend all day Monday with us.!!! We had so much fun with them...We all went downtown for the Labor Day parade, & Uncle Mike's magic show intro...We had a picnic with super duper sundaes for dessert...and lots of fun moments intermingled throughout the day in our apartment, around campus and on the playground...
  • Josiah really liked the super duper sundaes (Julie, I see why you wanted small bowls for the kids...I see what a little sugar can do!). Josiah also enjoyed playing along in the grown up games but he is still full of lots of energy and so much fun...
  • Katelyn was so excited because our playground "has threeee sliiides!" and it was entertaining to watch her chase after Josiah and Uncle Mike on the playground saying, as fast as the words would come out, "Unckle Ike, Unckle Ike, Unckle Ike, Unckle Ike, Unckle Ike..."
  • Caleb is such a cutey and he hardly cried after he got over the initial intimidation of being in a strange place. We have some really cute clips of him on the video, including him showing us "strong" and "cheeeese" (standing on the picnic table bench), imitating Uncle Mike doing the floating dollar bill trick and breaking into dance moves at the sound of music...
My very first amateur video captures our day...
(We have more video of Caleb than the others because he got all the attention while Josiah and Katelyn were down for naps. Also, can you guess you was taking the pictures since I'm hardly in any?)

Can you believe that we did all that in one day?!? Each of you are so precious to us and we are so glad that you spent the day with us! Come back and visit us anytime!!!! We love you!!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Everything is "Super"

I had my semi-annual appointment with my oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic. My mammogram (which is the part that makes me the most nervous) was clear. So, it was great once again to hear Dr. Andresen say that "You are doing super." Praise the Lord!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Frugal Friday: Salon Savings

My mom is a beautician and until we moved to Ohio I had only gone to get my hair done at the salon a total of a few times in my whole life. (Thank you, mom!) But, since we moved to Ohio we don't get home as often (sometimes only once every few months) and because I had a short hairstyle for awhile after my chemo I really had little choice but to go to the salon. I soon realized that this can get really expensive! But, there are ways to make it less expensive (and still look good and feel good about yourself)...
  1. Longer hairstyles allow you to go for quite awhile without a haircut. Even with shorter styles, stretch the length in between cuts. Stretching your haircuts from every 6 weeks to every 8 weeks saves you two visits every year.
  2. Check out the local beauty school. Even if you only go there every other cut, or just for services like manicures, it could save you a good deal of money in the long run. It's worth a try.
  3. If you use salon products, buy them somewhere else. Super Walmart, CVS and other drug stores carry many of the salon products at lower prices. Or, look on eBay...I bought 4 jars of Bed Head Mastermind hair product for the same price I would have paid for 1 in the salon!
  4. Ask for gift certficates to your favorite salon as a Christmas gift.
  5. Invest in hair clippers and cut your husband's hair yourself. I was a little bit scared at first, but it's really not that hard.
  6. Learn to do your own manicures or pedicures.
  7. Learn to cut your own bangs and your children's hair.
  8. Donate your hair to Locks of Love.

Going to the salon is more important to some women than others (and that is not necessarily wrong), so my challenge to you is this...

  • Add up how much you spent last year on haircuts and all the other salon services, including hair care products for the whole family...multiply that times 20...Is 20 years of going to the salon worth that amount of money?? My point is that (just like cable TV and other things) a small amount each month adds up over a number of years. Conversely, pinching pennies to save a couple hundred dollars in a few different areas in the budget also adds up over the years as well!
  • And secondly, examine your this area one that you have given control over to God? The Bible tells us that we should be more concerned about inner beauty than outer beauty...

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

I Timothy 2:6

Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.

Matthew 23:27

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.

I Peter 3:3-5

I am not saying that going to the beauty salon or even having a day of pampering is sinful...we should be good stewards and take care of our bodies which also includes eating healthy & exercising...but, even each of these can become sinful (ie: an idol) if our hearts are not right...just as being rich is not in itself sinful, the love of money is sinful...

So, besides being costly monetarily, we may have fallen into believing the lie (which permeates our culture) that physical beauty matters more than inner beauty...

The fact is, if we devote our time and energy to staying fit, trim, glamorous and youthful looking, we may achieve those objectives--for awhile. But the day will come when we will regret having neglected to cultivate that inner beauty, character, and radiance that are pleasing to God and last forever.

(quoted from "Lies Women Believe" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, p. 82)

Now on to other Frugal Friday news...Here are some valuable printable coupons...

Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers

(Walmart $1.27 - $1 coupon here = $.27)

$1 off 2 Old El Paso products

(this works well with the refried beans or the taco seasonings)

($1.78 at Walmart - $1 coupon = $.78)